A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
It was frightening to see the devastation Hurricane Ian wreaked in Cuba. Now it was clawing its slow path toward the lovely, vulnerable heart of Florida, almost a Category 5 storm. My son John and his wife were vacationing in the Florida Keys and a quick phone call told me they were safe. But thousands lived in the direct path of the storm. Many of them were infirm and elderly people, who had no resources to evacuate. Ian struck, and the images on TV of the carnage were bad. I was comforted to see rescue efforts by ministries like the Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse were already on site, offering relief.
Now meteorologists said the storm was headed for South Carolina. I wondered what was in the mind of God who, with His invincible power, could stop this destruction with just a word. I knew He cared what happened to the human beings that He had created, He had told us, with such joy. But was He so incensed by our country’s hedonistic, me-first, careless sins that He was punishing us?
On Thursday evening I sat on my back deck, feeling the strong winds and the fine mist that were the outer fringes of the hurricane. Several things I knew for sure about God, I told myself as I sat there. His perfect Word, the Bible, describes Him so clearly. I knew I could trust the Bible. No one has ever, ever found an error in its pages. So what did I know, for sure, about this catastrophic storm?
I know God has absolute power over nature. He will do what He desires to do, and no one, no demon in Hell nor angel in Heaven, nothing, can stop Him. His Word says He is absolutely just, that He is always righteous, that He punishes sin and rewards people that do right. The Scripture says that God does only good; He cannot and will not ever do anything but good. Somehow, beyond my understanding, this would turn out for good—maybe by driving people to Him. The Bible says He uses even the really bad things that happen to Christians to do them good. Best of all, His Word says He loves us human beings with a love so deep, so passionate, so everlasting, that He sacrificed His only Son, God Himself, to pay for our sins so we could enjoy Heaven with Him forever. Those truths about God were still true and trustworthy no matter what lay ahead.*
So as I sat in the rising mist and wind, I knew God would not forsake us. Hurricane Ian was in His absolute control. I could trust God’s goodness and His love. Might there be an element of punishment involved? Perhaps so. After all, it’s best for a sinner to be stopped in his sin for his own sake as well as the welfare of others. Wicked people need to be warned that judgment awaits them if they will not turn to God. Life is short and eternity is real.
So I went to bed comforted, and awoke to a rain-soaked, brilliant dawn. My God was still in His Heaven. He does all things well. Someday He would tell us how He used Hurricane Ian for His good purposes. Until that blessed day, in faith, we must wait patiently.
*Would you like to read for yourself the Bible verses that comforted me that night? If you don’t have a Bible handy, use a cell phone app. God’s power over the universe: Psalm 147. God keeps His promises: Psalm 57:2 He is righteous and just: Psalm 11:7; Psalm 119:137,138. He does only good: Psalm 100:5; Psalm 119:68. His profound love is everlasting: Romans 8:31-39; Jeremiah 31:3. He turns bad things into good for the sakes of His children: Romans 8:28.